Truthfully, Nicolo only realises how hungry he is when he sees the food laid out for them. Although, he still struggles to eat more than a few mouthfuls. He is nervous. He does feel better knowing that Yusuf is possibly as inexperienced as he is. Had Yusuf not told him, he would not have thought it. Nicolo supposes that’s what comes with being a King, the ability to seem knowledgeable and at ease, even when you are not.
“Are you disappointed in my decision?” Yusuf asks.
“That I only chose to banish Jafar.”
Nicolo is about to take a sip from his goblet. He sets it back down and places his hand on top of Yusuf’s. The other man looks back at him, subdued.
“No, Yusuf. I am not disappointed. Perhaps there is a part of me that would have preferred a more permanent resolution. But he is your brother.”
“Half-brother,” Yusuf corrects automatically.
“Half-brother,” Nicolo agrees, smiling slightly. “And though I have no family of my own, I can understand why you would not want to be the one to impose the sentence of death upon him.”
“But do I have the right?” Yusuf looks conflicted. “I was not the only one wronged by his actions. What of the widows and fatherless children of the men killed in that ambush? What of Lykon? What of Nile and her people? By showing him this much clemency, have I denied them justice?”
“I don’t know what to say, Yusuf. You are a King. Your word is law. I think the people trust your judgement. And better by far to be ruled by a King with a good heart than a tyrant.” Nicolo is relieved when the furrow marring Yusuf’s brow smooths out a little.
“You think I have a good heart?”
“I think you have a wonderful heart,” says Nicolo, truthfully. Yusuf lowers his head, but not before Nicolo sees him smile.
They continue with their meal. Yusuf keeps passing Nicolo things to try.
“We should probably ride out to see Lykon in a few days. Find out when he will be strong enough to travel.”
“I have no doubt we will find him much recovered,” says Nicolo. “I would like to speak more with Nile’s mother about the medicinal plants she uses.”
“You have an interest in healing?” Yusuf asks.
“I helped care for the sick when I was with the Church.”
Yusuf makes a noncommittal noise, sensitive to the fact this is a subject Nicolo doesn’t care to revisit. It’s certainly true that Nicolo has tried to put that part of his life behind him. He still has faith, but not in the Church.
“Nile showed a great deal of fortitude. I was thinking of asking her if she would consider acting as a liaison between her people and mine. My grandfather’s policy was to give them their land and turn his back on them. My father held true to that in that he didn’t mediate with them at all. I wonder if there isn’t more to be gained from communicating with them.”
“The route we take through the hills to the port is a long one. Perhaps there are shorter routes? If her people are willing to be employed as guides, perhaps for payment, or trade in goods, it could benefit her people and mine.”
“We should put the idea to Nile when we visit Lykon. See if she thinks her people would be receptive to it,” says Nicolo. It is a good idea. Jafar almost succeeded because he was able to operate in the hills in secrecy; better communication with Nile’s people might prevent such a thing happening in the future. “Some of the plants Nile’s mother spoke of were unfamiliar to me. When I asked about them, she told me that they only grow in the hills. If she is willing to share her knowledge that could also be of help to your people.”
“Perhaps we should take her a gift,” suggests Yusuf. “To show our gratitude.”
“Give the gifts to Nile and her brother, a reward for their actions in aiding you. Something useful, like a fine sword or a horse. I think their mother would be more appreciative of their recognition than her own.”
Yusuf nods. “As always, my love, you are most wise. I will speak with Andromache about the horses and have my weapons master craft them some new blades.”
“I would like to keep Galib,” says Nicolo.
“Oh?” Yusuf looks surprised and then amused. ”I would have thought you would be glad to be rid of him.”
“He has proven himself very capable. I would like the opportunity to continue his instruction,” says Nicolo defensively.
“Peace, my love. I agree. And it would be wise as my Consort for you to maintain a bodyguard.”
Nicolo splutters around his mouthful of drink.
“My Consort,” says Yusuf slowly. He suddenly looks stricken. “Did you not wish to be?”
“No! I mean yes!” Nicolo doesn’t even know what he’s saying. “But I’m not sure that I understand. Your Consort is-?”
“My husband, to all intents and purposes.” Yusuf plucks Nicolo’s goblet from his numb fingers and sets it down. Then takes both of Nicolo’s hands in his. “I wish nothing more than for us to spend the rest of our lives together. I would be honoured if you would consent to be my Consort."
“But I am a stranger in these lands. I cannot give you heirs. People still believe I am a concubine,” Nicolo adds, mortified.
“This Kingdom will see you as a hero once the truth emerges,” Yusuf assures him. " And I have no need for heirs. My sister has three sons. All fine boys. So, will you?”
“Will I?” Nicolo echoes back, still reeling in shock.
“Be my Consort?” Yusuf asks, a touch desperately. “For you are the moon when I am lost in darkness and the warmth when I shiver in cold.”
Nicolo finally snaps out of his daze. “Of course I will, you incurable romantic.”
Yusuf’s eyes crinkle at the corners as his face creases in a wide happy smile. Nicolo simply has to kiss him.
“Hmm,” Yusuf murmurs. “Perhaps we should retire to bed?”
Nicolo accepts the hand that helps him up. He still feels a little shaky as they head towards their sleeping quarters.
He almost stumbles as he removes the last of his clothing and steadies himself against the bed. When at last he turns to face Yusuf, he finds the man’s hands hovering between them, clearly undecided whether to assist.
“You’re obviously tired, my love. Perhaps you should rest?”
“You know I didn’t actually spend all of last night looking for my horse,” says Nicolo dryly. “Also, you’re naked. I’m tired, Yusuf. Not dead.”
Yusuf looks startled.
“Unless you would prefer to sleep?” Nicolo asks, self-doubt creeping in.
“No, no,” says Yusuf hurriedly.
He lets out a nervous peep when Nicolo drops to his knees.
“Forgive me if I am not very good,” says Nicolo. “I have never tried this sober.”
Yusuf’s mouth opens and closes a few times, but nothing comes out.
Nicolo takes that as permission. He can probably count the number of times he has done this on one hand. A toxic combination of self-loathing and disinterest in his paramours meant it was easier to be deep in his cups before he tried. None of those things apply here. He has long since shrug off the shackles of his Church's doctrine, and he wants Yusuf so badly he aches with it.
The first thing he notices is Yusuf has a very nice cock. Nice length, nice girth, nestled amidst a trimmed cluster of soft looking black curls. The second thing is it looks very exposed, without its foreskin. Nicolo wraps a careful hand around the satin smooth flesh.
Yusuf sucks in a sharp breath.
Nicolo gently rubs his thumb under the mushroom shaped crown, spreading the precum around. He pokes his tongue out to taste.
“My love, I think I might have to sit down,” says Yusuf; his voice is slightly higher than normal.
Nicolo releases him and rests back on his heels as Yusuf collapses heavily onto the bed.
“Shall I continue?” Nicolo asks.
Nicolo goes back to what he was doing. This time he positions his hand a little lower, so he can close his lips over the head. Yusuf’s thighs twitch. He nudges them apart with his elbows to encourage Yusuf to spread them wide. Yusuf tastes, not good exactly, but clean and salty bitter. Nicolo laps at the thin fluid with his tongue and decides he can get used to it. What he likes even more is the way Yusuf trembles and sighs, murmuring soft pleas along with Nicolo’s name.
“Nicolo, my love, oh-oh, can I, please…”
Nicolo releases Yusuf with a soft pop and looks up.
“May I touch your hair,” Yusuf pleads.
Nicolo nods and hums in approval before putting his mouth back on Yusuf, who whimpers and cards his fingers through the long strands.
Keeping his lips over his teeth, Nicolo establishes a rhythm of sorts. He pauses occasionally to run his tongue around the head and press against that leaking slit.
Yusuf has been reduced to making sounds rather than words. His hands tighten on Nicolo’s head, but Nicolo certainly doesn’t mind.
A moment later Yusuf stiffens, Nicolo seals his lips tight and continues to suckle as Yusuf jerks and spills into his mouth. He wasn’t expecting quite so much, but he manages to swallow most of it, and he wipes away the rest with the back of his hand as he sits back to survey his work. Yusuf has collapsed backwards onto the bed, breathing hard.
“Was that all right?” Nicolo asks.
Yusuf pushes himself up slowly onto his elbows.
“That was very, very all right. Now come up here.” He pats the space on the bed beside him.
With his heart still pounding wildly in his chest, Yusuf watches Nicolo crawl up onto the bed. He draws Nicolo flush against him and kisses him. Nicolo seems strangely hesitant and it takes Yusuf a moment to understand why. He runs his tongue along the seam of Nicolo’s lips, nudging them open. There is a flavour of himself in Nicolo’s mouth, but he doesn’t find it distasteful. Far from it. He also feels Nicolo’s stiff cock poking him.
“Now, what are we going to do about this?”
“I don’t think I will last very long,” Nicolo admits.
Nicolo shakes his head.
“My hand or my mouth?” Yusuf asks.
Nicolo shuts his eyes and takes a deep, shuddering breath before reopening them and speaking.
“Your hand this time, I think.”
Yusuf is a little surprised when Nicolo takes hold of it, but finds himself staring when Nicolo begins to lick it, sucking lewdly on his fingers.
“Right… yes... that’s… good.”
He wraps his damp palm around Nicolo’s length, pleased when Nicolo groans and tries to push closer.
“I’ve got you. I’ve got you.” He keeps his grip just this side of firm. He doesn’t believe he could ever tire of this sight. Nicolo is gasping and whimpering as he rocks into Yusuf’s hand, clutching Yusuf’s hip almost painfully. He cries out Yusuf’s name softly as he comes.
Yusuf brings his hand to his mouth to it clean off. Nicolo goes a little cross-eyed watching him. He uses a cushion to mop up the rest, pointing out that they won’t be needing them anymore. Nicolo is already half asleep as he manoeuvres the younger man onto his side, tucking him against his chest. Placing an arm around him, they tangle their legs together.
There will be time later to speak with Andromache and discover that his mother is well and has managed to consume some thin broth. There will be time to watch from the balcony as a sullen Jafar is escorted out through the palace gates, to be put on a ship that will set sail for the furthest shores. There will be time to find fine horses and expertly crafted blades for Nile and her brother. Time to discuss new treaties and discourses. Time to escort a grumbling Lykon home. (Nile’s mother is also a very good cook.) Time to promote Galib to the position of bodyguard to the King’s Consort. Time to plan a wedding. Time to plan their future.
For now, Yusuf just wants to sleep with his nose buried in the soft strands of Nicolo’s hair.
The End…. For now.